Emmonak is a Central Yup'ik Eskimo village located at the mouth of the Yukon River, 10 miles from the Bering Sea, on the north bank of Kwiguk Pass. It lies 120 air miles northwest of Bethel. The village was originally called "Kwiguk," a Yup'ik word meaning "big stream." Villagers call themselves "Kuigpagmuit" or "people from the Yukon River." It has also been called "Emanguk" by the Census Bureau.
The original settlement was 1.4 miles south of its present location and was first reported by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1899. A post office was established there in 1920. Later, commercial fishing became a major industry in the village, and the Northern Commercial Company built a cannery. In 1964, the cannery was washed away by floods. Due to increasing flooding and erosion, the village was relocated 1.4 miles north of Kwiguk in 1964-65. The new location was renamed Emmonak, which means "blackfish."
A federally-recognized tribe is located in the community, Emmonak Village. The village is involved in commercial fishing, processing, and subsistence activities. Residents of Chuloonawick, a nearby fish camp, also live in Emmonak. The 2011 population according to Alaska Department of Labor Estimates was 796.
For generations the people had been visited by priests stationed at Akulurak. In 1953 a church was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the original village settlement of Kwiguk. After the village moved from Kwiguk to Emmonak, a new church was built in Emmonak. The first mass was celebrated in the new church in September, 1967.
On August 6, 2000, the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, the Most Reverend Michael Kaniecki, S.J., who was Bishop of the Diocese of Fairbanks for 15 years beginning in 1985, died of a heart attack at Emmonak. He was there to confirm candidates at Sacred Heart Church. A Jesuit priest, who still serves the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta mission regions of the Diocese, was at Bishop Kaniecki's side and administered to him the Last Rites of the Church. In recent years, Sacred Heart has been served by resident deacons, parish administrators, and pastoral facilitators, and by visiting priests and ministers of Subregion A of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region.
In addition, the Y-K Region Adult Faith Program is home based in Emmonak. Adult Faith Formation (AFF), a challenging and rewarding ministry that touches all 24 bush villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region of Northwest Alaska. AFF develops and coordinates sub regional workshops and retreats on themes of prayer and spirituality; inculturation and dialogue; and social justice. Sacred Heart pastoral facilitator Patrick Tam is the director of AFF.